Hales explains Kruger settlement decision
Mayor Charlie Hales is defending his management of the Portland Police Bureau, despite a recent decision to remove disciplinary actions from the personnel record of a captain who honored Nazi-era soldiers on his own time.
The bureau had suspended Mark Kruger for posting the plaque and reprimanded him for retaliating against a lieutenant. The city will also pay Kruger $5,000 after Kruger threatened to sue, claiming a city official repeatedly slandered him in text messages by referring to him as a Nazi.
In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Hales said:
"On Wednesday, the community learned the details of a settlement between Capt. Mark Kruger and the City of Portland.
Community reaction has been outrage. I hear that outrage and agree with much of the substance of it. The issues involved bring up very personal, long-standing feelings of hurt and anger. These issues awaken our values as a community, especially where it comes to the behavior we expect from our public servants.
I do not minimize these feelings. The community has every right to feel this way.
The Portland City Council shares these values, as well as frustrations with this situation.
As mayor, I signed the settlement agreement. I am not happy with this settlement. I wish it had turned out differently. But it did not, and I take full responsibility for signing the document, making it a binding legal agreement. Mayors often must make distasteful
decisions for the good of the city. This is one of those times.
My signature does not mean I condone, in any way, the actions of Capt. Kruger in 1999.
Instead, this complex settlement marks the end of multiple legal battles that have engulfed the city for more than a decade and involved four mayoral administrations. The constitutional issues present in the situation meant that past mayors were advised by
counsel that the city might well have lost a court fight. I have been advised the same.
Im not happy with the settlement. But I signed it. The final decision was mine.
Regarding the Portland Police and relationships with the community, we have implemented significant structural changes, including:
? The hiring of a more diverse workforce.
? Creation of a new discipline guide.
? Implementation of new rules of conduct regarding use of force.
? Implementation of officer performance evaluations.
We also have pushed forward with the implementation of reforms negotiated after a Department of Justice investigation, even though a judge has not yet ruled on the issue.
We did not wait for the judge, but are working with the DOJ, the Police Bureau, and others in Portland to improve the relationship between the Police Bureau and the community.
Heres what we have not done, but will do: Create a better process by which the details of major, important disciplinary issues – regardless of which bureau – are flagged for the attention of the full City Council. Currently, this process involves the City Attorney,
Human Resources, the citys Risk Management, the bureau and a single commissioner, but does not always include a full discussion with the full City Council. That will change.
I and other members of the Portland City Council intend to address that process immediately.
But in regards to the legal issue between the city and Capt. Kruger: The outrage felt by the community is right and just.
This case needs to be resolved. I take responsibility for ending the legal dispute about past performance, and for setting clear expectations for future performance in service to Portlanders.
But Rev. Chuck Currie, an outspoken local human rights advocate, blasted the agreement in a Wednesday statement, saying:
"Capt. Kruger must see this as a victory. But his worship of SS troops might be erased from a city file as part of some bizarre move after he harassed a female colleague another incident he has not been held fully accountable for but Portlanders will remember this police officer who dressed as a Nazi and built a shrine in honor of Hitler's most fearsome troops. We won't forget. And our trust of the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland City Council will be further diminished because of this day. The U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Portland Police, which found a pattern of civil rights abuses by Portland officers, didn't go far enough. There is a cancer in our bureau and no effective civilian control of this entity whose employees can get away with literally anything."
KOIN News 6 contributed to this story.